BANGOR – The March of Dimes Maine Chapter delivered 800 pieces of clothing and blankets to Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Rosen Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on Sept. 27.
The clothes, which include Isolette dresses, diaper shirts, dresses, pants, pajamas and other items, were donated by March of Dimes volunteers as part of Preemie Project 1372.
Preemie Project 1372 was designed as a statewide, grass-roots effort to collect 1,372 pieces of preemie-sized clothing for public display to represent the number of preemies born in Maine in 2002. The display was designed to help Mainers visualize the extent of the prematurity epidemic.
In Maine, one in 10 babies is born too early, putting them at risk for lifelong health and learning problems. Premature birth is the leading cause of infant death. While Maine’s rate of pre-term birth is lower than the nation’s, its rate of increase is double that of the nation’s. Between 1993 and 2003, Maine had a 25 percent increase in the number of pre-term births. Nationally, the increase was 12 percent.
Pre-term babies are born before 37 weeks gestation. A normal gestation is 40 weeks.
The goal of the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign is to reduce the incidence of pre-term birth from the current 12.3 percent to the Healthy People 2010 goal of 7.6 percent. One of the objectives of the Prematurity Campaign is to provide direct support to families in the NICU. Last year, volunteer stitchers donated more than 3,000 items to the March of Dimes to distribute to the three NICUs in the state.
Earlier this month the March of Dimes relaunched Preemie Project 1372. This coming year, 1,394 items will need to be displayed. An additional 22 preemies were born in Maine in 2003, according to the latest available statistics.
The clothes and other donated items will be displayed at the Augusta Armory on Tuesday, Nov. 14, which has been designated Prematurity Awareness Day.
As the area’s only Level III nursery, EMMC’s NICU is the northern and eastern Maine referral center for premature or sick newborns. The unit has cared for more than 5,500 critically ill infants. When the unit opened in 1980, it had only three beds available; today, the NICU serves nearly 500 babies per year in a 23-bed unit. The NICU cares for critically ill infants and babies born prematurely – as early as 23 weeks.
The fifth annual March of Dimes Dinner Auction will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the Elks Club on Odlin Road.
Items up for auction include an 8-foot rug from Saliba’s, a chest from Stonington’s Furniture, a deacon’s bench from the woodworking program at the Maine State Prison, and autographed books by National Basketball Hall of Fame coach John Wooden.
Those interested in purchasing a table or individual dinner auction tickets should call the Northern Maine March of Dimes office at 989-3376.
The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education and advocacy to save babies and in 2003 launched a campaign to address the increasing rate of premature birth. For more information, visit www.marchofdimes.com or its Spanish language Web site at www.nacersano.org.